Becoming a Different Kind of Leader

What is the new leadership?

Is your boss doing it?

Are you?

In my new book, I outline the process that took me from “Marine sergeant” to the beginnings of becoming a new kind of leader — a leader for tomorrow.

Why a new leader? Because the old leadership wasn’t and won’t work. But most important, the old leadership wasn’t right.

Of course, this comes with a belief  regarding what is “right.” I believe people have a right and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect–everyone. Once you and I come to that belief, it’s a lot easier to buy into the new leadership.

The new leadership is about being collaborative, working in teams, asking and inquiring, listening, treating others with respect, using the problem-solving process, avoiding coercive power (even when you have the lawful authority to use it), being creative and encouraging it in others, thinking in systems, and a doing lot more coaching than telling.

In short, being a new leader is about being for others – helping others grow (and, in turn, you grow yourself).

During my career, I came to see that leader I wanted to be, and the leaders I wanted leading the men and women of my department, meant working according to the following principles.

But, first of all, I had to start becoming that kind of leader.

Principles of the New Leadership

[Abbreviated]

1. Believe in, foster, and support teamwork.

Teamwork is working together—working to solve crimes and conduct investigations… We should try to do our work with teams whenever possible.

2. Be committed to the problem-solving process; use it and let data, not emotions, drive decisions.

Use the problem-solving process… Too often we use our emotions or feelings to choose a course of action. This principle encourages the use of data, figures, information, and facts to drive that decision-making… Using data will help our decision-making because we will be able to answer that extremely crucial question: How do we know this is true?

3. Seek employees’ input before you make key decisions.

This is a commitment to ask your employees about what the key decisions are in the workplace. They may be staffing levels, assignments, transfers, or taking time off. Whatever they may be, they are things that the employees feel are decisions on key matters—not things you or I think…

4. Believe that the best way to improve the quality of work or service is to ask and listen to employees who are doing the work.

As supervisors and managers we don’t do the front-line work. We depend on others to do the job of responding directly to the customers, the citizens of our city. It has been a long time since most of us have performed this job. Therefore, we depend on the men and women who do this job to tell us what they need to do get the job done… Employees want bosses who are willing to listen, and we need employees who will honestly tell us about what’s going on.

5. Strive to develop mutual respect and trust among employees.

How do we develop respect and trust in the workplace? One of the keys is to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. People want to be respected and trusted. Bosses who show respect and trust have respected and trusted employees. We must come to the workplace with the basic belief that our employees deserve respect and can be trusted—that’s why we hired them in the first place… We must all be committed to driving fear out of our workplace.

6. Have a customer orientation and focus toward employees and citizens.

A customer orientation and focus means that we listen to our customers. Customers may be citizens, elected officials, employees, or interest groups. As supervisors and managers, we have as direct customers our employees, who provide service to their customers, the citizens and taxpayers… Today, people want to be heard and participate.

7. Manage the behavior of 95 percent of employees and not the 5 percent who cause problems. Deal with the 5 percent promptly and fairly.

This is a fundamental principle regarding people. It should help us to look at how we view our employees. Do we believe that they can be trusted, are mature adults, and want to do a good job? Or do we believe that they are untrustworthy, immature, and want to avoid work?… We believe 95 percent of our employees fall into the first group and 5 percent or fewer fall into the second group… Rules shouldn’t be written based on the behavior of the 5 percent, nor should the department be run as if all employees were in the 5 percent group…

8. Improve systems and examine processes before placing blame on people.

Continually monitor the systems you are responsible for to enhance them and, ultimately, the quality of the output. Leaders have responsibility for the performance of systems—this is creative and valuable work. In the past, we have emphasized that the job of a manager was to watch over, maintain, and inspect systems. No more. Our job today is to enrich these systems—continually, incessantly, and forever…

9. Avoid top-down power-oriented decision-making whenever possible.

We should avoid the use of coercive power whenever possible. When we use it we should remember that we all pay a cost in its exercise—giver and receiver. The finest decisions are those in which we all participate and concur. The next are those decisions in which everyone is asked for their input before something is decided. [There are] costs to leaders who use coercive power to get the job done: costs of time, enforcement, alienation, stress, and diminishing influence…

10. Encourage creativity through risk-taking, and be tolerant of honest mistakes.

We will never get creativity and innovation from our employees when we tell them they cannot make mistakes… It isn’t easy to accept honest mistakes. The price we pay for zero defects, however, is zero creativity…

11. Be a facilitator and coach. Develop an open atmosphere that encourages providing and accepting feedback.

A leader’s job today is different. It is challenging and gives us opportunities for personal growth because it offers so many new options. Being an effective quality leader means being a coach, a teacher, student, role model, and, most significant, a champion of the new philosophy… Leaders develop the competence of their people. They are committed. Their employees know where they stand.

12. Use teamwork to develop agreed-upon goals with employees, and a plan to achieve them.

This principle tries to capture the importance of progress and moving forward as a team. We plan where we are going and establish agreed-upon ways to achieve that goal with input from and discussion with our employees. We help create a vision. Our job is then to align that vision with our practices…[i]

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How about you?

Are you willing to start becoming this kind of leader?

After all, most of us are leaders in one way or another. We lead at home in our family, our church, in our neighborhood, and even at work (even if we aren’t officially designated to be a leader).

So, are you be willing not only to be this kind of leader, but also to take the risk to help the people who lead you to evolve?


[i] Quality Leadership Workbook. Madison Police Department. 1992. You can find the full description of the process and principles used in Madison in Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief Sounds Off About Protest, Racism, Corruption and the Seven Steps Necessary to Improve Our Nation’s Police, 2012. To order it CLICK HERE.